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Thursday, January 17th, 2013 - Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

The $7,950 finale of the Joe O’Brien Pacing series headlines Saturday night’s program at the Watch and Wager LLC meeting at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap with the Lonnie Beck Pace and Marvin Shapiro Pace as the co-features.

Four different pacers posed for snapshots following divisions of the first two legs of the O’Brien, with Littlehannahsue, Boot Scootin Bow, Whicadidja and Sweetest Original getting the job done and now setting their sights on a victory in the final.

Littlehannahsue actually crossed the wire first in the opening legs, narrowly prevailing the first week and then getting set back to second by the stewards in last week’s penultimate leg. James Kennedy bred, owns, trains and drives the 4-year-old daughter of Little Steven and will have to do her work from the outside post.

Whicadidja was third in a blanket finish in the first leg and was awarded the score last time. The 5-year-old Ohio-bred is conditioned by Bernie Wolin and carries the banner of David Siegel, Robert Thronson and Greg Robinson with Siegel once again handling the lines.

Boot Scootin Bow flew home to capture his division of the opening leg for owner Kc C Carvallo, trainer Tim Brown and pilot Luke Plano and has to be given a strong look, while Sweetest Original registered a 15-1 upset last week and figures to get more respect at the windows this time around. Frank Petrelli conditions the Amante Standardbreds, Inc homebred with Steve Wiseman doing the honors.

Rounding out the field are Good Tiger Falls, who leaves from the rail with Scott Cisco Drawing Dead, Williams Hernandez Little Anna Mae, Tim Maier Comeshowmeearly with Richard Schneider Glad It’s Over, Mike Eaton Bloom N Doom, to be guided by Mooney Svendsen.

A reminder that there is a trio of wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5 that begins on the third race the $1 Pick 4 that covers the last four races and comes with a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool on Saturday, a $20,000 guarantee on Friday and $15,000 on Thursday and the 10-cent High 5 on the finale.


In addition to the Joe O’Brien Series finale, which is named for the legendary driver/trainer, two other important players in the history of California harness history are being honored Saturday night at Cal Expo with races being named for Lonnie Beck and Marvin Shapiro.

Lonnie Beck was one of the most important owner/breeders of the last several decades while campaigning some of the top performers on the West Coast, including Givmewhatineed, his son Ivegotwhatuneed and Mel’s Best, just to name a few. Bob Johnson was among his trainers and remembers him with much respect.

“Lonnie was a good owner and very important to California as an owner and a breeder, especially during the time we needed it most,” Johnson said. “I remember one year we went to the Harrisburg sale and he bought 12 horses to bring back here to race. He made a big difference.”

The Marvin Shapiro is named for the innovative racetrack operator who passed away in 2003 at the age of 86. He was introduced to racing by his father L.K. Shapiro, who is in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and at one time owned the mighty Adios. It was L.K. who brought harness racing to California in the 1950’s and it was Marvin who revolutionized it when he was instrumental getting legislation passed for night racing in the state.

As a result, the first racing under the lights in California took place in 1970 at the Western Harness meeting at Hollywood Park, which Marvin Shapiro ran for 14 years until his son Richard took over the helm.

During those years, Western Harness averaged between 15,000 and 20,000 fans on the weekends. The meeting was also the first to offer exacta wagering in the state while doing a multitude of promotions, including concerts by major entertainers and other special shows.